Tag Archives: north kensington

Britain’s first ‘state funded public school’

Holland Park SchoolFollowing its star performance in Tatler magazine, the governors of Holland Park Academy, assisted by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, are promoting a change to its admissions policy that will ensure that the school’s catchment area serves only the most affluent residential area in London. Campaigners expect this change to exclude most if not all of the children living deprived North Kensington, and to tempt many residents around Holland park to stop using fee-paying private schooling in favour of a free education at their local Academy.

A local benefactor has paid for a sculpture by Anthony Gormley to grace the new Academy, which is reputed to have cost the Council £100m to build. The rebuild was funded by selling part of the old school’s site to a property developer and a massive development of luxury homes is currently under construction. This follows a Council decision not to require any social rented or affordable homes to be built on site, making the luxury homes particularly attractive to foreign investors.

Kensington and Chelsea Labour Group Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘We have opposed this change. The Academy benefits just as much as the pupils do from the current diverse intake of children. This in turn promotes social cohesion across the borough and indeed some of its star pupils destined for Oxbridge have come from North Kensington. It is a discriminatory and short-sighted policy which I hope that local resident and Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove will deplore. Even his own children will be disadvantaged by this proposed change.’

Labour’s education spokesperson Cllr Robert Atkinson added: ‘It beggars belief that Holland Park Academy initiated this consultation without informing Council members, but more importantly not even telling the head teachers of the local primary schools. This smacks of a conspiracy between the Academy and the Council leadership deliberately to exclude deprived and under-privileged children from the high quality education and facilities offered by Holland Park. It is quite disgraceful that the Tory Council expects the taxpayer to fund such an exclusive school.’

Labour supports OCS picket

27 August 2013
GMB OCS strikers with Labour Cllrs and supporters 2 27.8.13Labour councillors and activists today joined the picket line with strikers from the OCS contractors who provide cleaning services to all the Council’s housing estates. Unlike other contract staff, these cleaners not only earn much less than the London Living Wage (£7.18 per hour rather than £8.55 per hour) but have had their pay frozen for the coming year, while other contract staff will get an increase of 3%.
Such low pay makes it impossible for workers to live in London and bring up their families without recourse to welfare top-ups, such as Housing Benefit. OCS shareholders have long enjoyed healthy dividends from the efforts of these dedicated low paid workers and the company can well afford to pay a decent living wage. Instead, shareholders enjoy a subsidy from every income tax payer (including OCS cleaners) whose hard earned money provides the welfare benefits that top up low pay and deliver huge company profits.
Labour Group Leader Cllr. Judith Blakeman said “It is disgraceful that the Council and the TMO, unlike even the Mayor of London, do not require all their contractors to pay the London Living Wage to their workers, many of whom have served them loyally for a very long time”. Cllr. Pat Mason, Labour’s trade union liaison officer, added: “it is not a matter of residents having to pay higher service charges for cleaning. OCS shareholders should take their fair share of cuts in these times of austerity and top managers should stop expecting the tax payer to subsidise their bonuses”.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors in Kensington and Chelsea have consistently refused Labour demands that all the Council’s contract staff be paid the London Living Wage. While most of the Council’s contractors do pay it, Labour councillors expect a fair and consistent approach to all workers delivering services to Borough residents and urge OCS to get back to the negotiating table.

150% COUNCIL TAX ON EMPTY AND SECOND HOMES, demands Kensington Labour


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14.12.12

Kensington and Chelsea Labour councillors are urging the Conservative ruling group to withdraw the current 10% discount and raise the Council Tax payable on all second homes by 150% in the Borough from next April.

Labour Leader Cllr. Judith Blakeman said: “it is a disgrace that so many homes in this Borough are bought up as second, third or fourth homes by wealthy buyers and then left empty for most or all of the year. Since the Tory-led government won’t introduce a mansion tax or raise the number of Council Tax bands, this is the best option for us to achieve greater fairness”. Councils as disparate as the London Borough of Camden and Cornwall County Council, both blighted by excessive second homes, have already agreed to increase the tax on those properties. Kensington and Chelsea Labour councillors are urging the Conservative ruling group to raise the Council Tax payable on all second homes in the Borough from next April.

Labour draws attention to developments such as Chelsea Harbour, where the lights burn at night in only a very few of the hundreds of flats there. New developments, such as in Kensington High Street/Warwick Road, are actively marketed to foreign buyers seeking a safe haven, a trophy London home to add to their investment portfolio. They purchase homes in London but rarely, if ever, occupy them, they make no contribution to local community life and some areas of the Borough are now empty shells in the evenings and at weekends.

Labour Finance Spokeswoman Cllr. Emma Dent Coad said: “the coalition government keeps talking about ‘fairness’. Well, we think it is unfair that people like Mrs. Braithwaite, who lives in Golborne Ward and works tirelessly on behalf of her neighbours and her community, pays just £35 less Council Tax each month than the Sultan of Brunei, who has a rarely used mansion near Kensington Palace.”

Labour are preparing their alternative budget for the forthcoming 2013/14 Council Tax year. They will be focusing on children, young people, a local Olympic legacy and the need to protect vulnerable residents in the face of continuing Conservative cuts to services. Although the Tories claim that the Tri-borough initiative with Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham will prevent cuts to front line services, in reality cuts are being made. One of the most savage is the massive cut in child care for working families, forcing parents, mainly mothers, into unemployment and out of the education and training that would prepare them for the jobs market. Other cuts, to street cleaning for example, have made even the very best streets in the borough dirty and shabby.

The 2011 Census reveals that there are at least 9,303 second homes in the borough. The figure for those owning more than one “second home” in the borough are not available but is also significant. The additional money that raising the Council Tax on these properties would bring will enable some of the most damaging front line service cuts to be reversed.

PETITION TO END TNT POSTAL SERVICES PILOT

Cllr Pat Mason

After receiving numerous complaints from worried residents about TNT’s performance, North Kensington Labour Councillors have launched a public online and paper petition to be delivered to the January 2013 Council Meeting asking RBKC to examine these complaints and decide if the government should be asked to end the TNT pilot currently underway in the borough. TNT have contracts to deliver business and government department mail on a trial basis in K&C as part of a pilot that  includes Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham.

The petition states that, “In North Kensington we have seen post abandoned in the streets, bushes and in the entrances of blocks of flats. Letters are lost, delayed, mis-delivered and stolen. This can have a devastating effect on local businesses and residents waiting for cheques, job offers, hospital appointments, contracts etc”.

Many of these letters can contain disability appointment dates, cold weather payment cheques, debit cards, and all manner of sensitive financial, social security and other information useful to criminals and scammers who will take any opportunity to rob our residents. The evidence suggests that when TNT deliveries go wrong, their complaints and redelivery systems are inadequate, their constant promises to better brief operatives to deliver mail properly and learn from their mistakes comes to nothing, and residents and business are left angry and frustrated.

Councillor Pat Mason said, “For the sake of our residents I hope the Council will seriously examine how TNT’s unacceptable delivery failures are leaving them exposed to interrupted payments, thieves and scammers. I have personally seen enough and believe they should be booted out of the borough”.

Click ‘Thanks but No Thanks to TNT’ link in sidebar to the right to sign petition.

22.11.12

RICHEST COUNCIL TURNS ITS BACK ON WORKING POOR

Councillor Robert Atkinson, Labour’s spokesperson for Children’s Services

1.11.12 New Children’s Centre strategy will not make work pay

As expected the Cabinet of RBKC voted unanimously on Halloween to privatise its OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Rated Childcare Services.
Labour Children’s Services spokesperson Cllr Robert Atkinson attacked the hypocrisy of the wealthy Conservative Council for claiming to consult its parents and qualified staff and then ignoring the finding that more than 94% of users and staff did not wish to ‘marketise’ the service. Cllr. Atkinson commented: ‘They may have listened but they most certainly have not heard. The Council claimed to be concerned at the plight of working parents who depend upon and value the outstanding integrated childcare service of the Royal Borough but have now decided to ignore them while citing the borough’s poverty! This from a council with £180m in Reserves which spent £23 million to repave Exhibition Road with imported pink granite and £1m on an Olympic street festival that no one went to.

‘The Cabinet claimed to value both the professionalism and high standards of its loyal staff and the frantic efforts of parents to find alternative means But in reality they plan to hand over the staff to an alternative provider who will ditch the professional staff and replace them with unskilled and cheaper childminders as soon as the “TUPE” transfer of staff commitment ends.’

The meeting was attended by 50 parents, who presented a carefully prepared proposal to develop higher means tested fees to retain an integrated easily accessed service. The Council ignored the parents’ proposals and decided instead to focus on targeted services for those they crudely identify as the most needy. Parents and staff want to maintain separate local services in eight different specialist centres while the Council intends to focus staff and expertise into two centres and risk the decline of the local services

Cllr Atkinson fumed: ‘The consultation exercise was a smokescreen to divert public attention while the Council ruthlessly got on with its plans to rid itself of loyal staff. This Council, like this government, does not understand or care about the struggles of ordinary working families to pay their bills and to stay in work. By tampering with the children’s services women will be forced out of work and onto benefits. This is bad for the families, the staff, the children and ultimately for the tax payer. The result of this short termism will be more family breakdown, lower educational achievements, less social cohesion and ultimately more crime and anti social behaviour.’